Photo: L'Entente -- Le British Brasserie/Instagram
It might sound like a brave venture but in just 16 weeks the restaurant is proving to be a hit with the locals and already counts former French presidents among its guests.
And perhaps it's no wonder.
This is no “greasy spoon” café or good old UK pub but a high-end British-inspired restaurant that serves top nosh, located in the posh 2nd arrondissement of Paris on Rue Monsigny.
Oliver Woodhead, the brains behind the new restaurant, described the venture as “groundbreaking”.
Photo: L'Entente — Le British Brasserie/Instagram
“I put the idea together 10 years ago. I knew it would be a challenge and it has been,” he told The Local.
One of the main challenges was surely trying to convince the French of the merits of British cuisine.
Woodhead says the cliché in France that British food is all rubbish is “absolutely unfair”.
“Thirty years ago [former French president ] Jacques Chirac called it the worst cuisine in the world after Finnish food but a lot has changed since then,” he said.
Woodhead moved to Paris 20 years ago for his gap year and never left.
After working in the hospitality sector around Paris for 15 years mostly for Americans, Brits and New Zealanders he began to hatch his plan for Le British Brasserie, which he was determined would not be a “cliché English-themed restaurant”.
Oliver Woodhead (L) with legendary fashion journalist Suzy Menkes (R). Photo: L'Entente — Le British Brasserie/Instagram
Now he's bringing British classics such as shepherd's pie to a city known for its haute-cuisine and demanding palates.
But Woodhead tells The Local the key is simplicity.
“We're not recreating anything complicated. It's just great produce, simply done with a bit of savoir faire,” he said.
Perhaps unsurprisingly Woodhead said it's been “a challenge” to convince the French to swap their treasured boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin for a plate of bacon and eggs, but he says his clientele are openly anglophiles.
And in just 16 weeks he can already boast a visit from former French President Francois Hollande and rave reviews in the French press.
Meanwhile foreigners in Paris are certainly on board, with the the fashion elite including designers Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs and Paul Smith, as well as legendary fashion journalist Suzie Menkes, and Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie among the illustrious stars to have eaten there.
So which dishes are proving the most popular?
“We'll never be able to take our shepherd's pie or fishcakes off the menu,” he said, adding that ginger loaf and lemon posset are the desserts that have been sweeping diners off their feet.
And while the food might be British, he isn't cutting France out of the equation completely, using mostly French produce to create his Anglo recipes.
Although he has made the brave decision to have Westcombe Cheddar, Stilton and Red Leicester on the cheese platter instead of the usual array of French cheeses.
But L'Entente — Le British Brasserie isn't only British in terms of the food it offers.
The popular shepherd's pie. Photo: L'Entente — Le British Brasserie/Instagram
Woodhead is also bringing a sense of the British working culture from across the Channel to French capital.
In a city where it's normal for restaurants to close on Sundays and/or Mondays, the fact that L'Entente — Le British Brasserie is open throughout the week and will even be open for the whole of August could be a shock for many of the city's natives.
“It's also about the Anglo Saxon mentality,” he said. “We're open seven days a week come hell or high water.
“I believe that in hospitality we are there to greet people when they want it and need it,” he added. “But this really isn't part of the [French] culture,” he added.
Fine dining in Paris
One of the reasons the British brasserie is proving such a hit could be to do with the fact that there is space for more high-end restaurants in the French capital.
“It can be hard to get into the really good restaurants in Paris. There are so many tourists as well as complacent restaurants so getting into the good ones can be difficult because they get booked up,” he said.
“But the Paris restaurant scene is getting better and better,” he added.